Wenzel’s Farm: The estate takes over
After Russ Wenzel’s death in May 2010, the Russell R. Wenzel estate, in partnership with Violet Wenzel, took over his portion of the business.
Trusted greatly in his leadership, Mark Vieth was named president of the company. Violet’s daughters, Judy and Nancy Wenzel, were asked to join in the family business and form a board of directors along with Violet and Vieth.
The estate’s personal representative, Arlan Ferch, was also asked to attend board meetings, operating as a nonvoting advisor.
“Although it was the first time that a member of the Wenzel family wasn’t closely involved in day-to-day operations, we had confidence in Mark, the management team, and the employees,” Judy said. “As board members, we worked closely with Mark to expand the business and improve operations.”
When the family made the decision to sell the business, the estate held the majority in the ownership of Harry C. Wenzel & Sons. Ferch and attorney Walter Minder worked closely with the family to find the right buyer.
“We were committed to finding a buyer who shared our focus on product quality, valued Wenzel Farm’s reputation and heritage, and had the financial ability to expand the business,” Nancy said. “It was equally important that the buyer would maintain the Marshfield operations and the management team and employees while continuing to support the community.”
The Wenzel family, along with Ferch and Minder, undertook a multiyear, national search for a prospective buyer, working with an investment banking firm and other advisors. As the search was ongoing, the Wenzel family continued to position the business for future growth.
“As stewards of the family business, we worked with Mark to make strategic decisions that were in the long-term best interests of the company, even though we wouldn’t be personally involved for the long term,” Judy noted.
“During long board meetings, our mother, Violet, who had been involved in the business for more than 60 years, kept us focused on what was most important to running the company,” Judy and Nancy said.
“I never thought I would be in my late 80s and still helping to make big business decisions,” Violet said. “But when it’s your family business, there is no retirement age.”
In May 2014 the family sold Harry C. Wenzel & Sons Inc. to Castleray LLC, a privately owned, diversified holding company, which operates the business as Wenzel’s Farm LLC. The sausage still carries the Wenzel’s Farm Sausage label, the company’s marketing name since 1949.
“We are pleased that today’s snack sticks, wieners, and other sausage still live up to the tradition of quality that earned Wenzel’s its reputation among the best on the market,” Violet, Judy, and Nancy said.